Chris Pesek ’97 and his wife Erika are turning a conversation over Thanksgiving dinner into a Christmas miracle befitting the season.
The couple is donating $1,000 through the Texas A&M Foundation to cover the cost of a hotel stay in College Station for a Texas A&M University student who has no family and is without a home for the winter break.
“Over Thanksgiving, my wife and I got to talking and we wondered if there were students who couldn’t make it home for the holidays, due either to financial or personal reasons,” Pesek said. “The two of us have always valued family above everything, and if Texas A&M students were being prevented from being with their families or didn’t have a place to go during the holidays, we wanted to help out.”
After making some inquiries, Pesek was notified of a student in need of support by Texas A&M University Student Assistance Services, an office in the Division of Student Affairs that seeks to connect students with the appropriate guidance, resources and support to address a variety of personal and academic matters.
The student, who will remain anonymous for privacy reasons, has supported himself since age 13. The death of his parents and the absence of his two brothers, who chose less than law-abiding paths in life, left him homeless, and he spent his nights sleeping on park benches. Despite these significant hardships, he graduated valedictorian of his Houston high school. A scholarship to Texas A&M made him the first in his family to attend college, and he hopes to one day become a surgeon.
Due to an incomplete grade, a scholarship tied to housing was revoked, and he began spending his nights in a lab on campus. Special assistance funding provided by The Association of Former Students and distributed by the Division of Student Affairs allowed for him to stay in a residence hall through the semester. With the close of residence halls over the winter break, however, he risked becoming homeless for a month.
“Occasionally we see students who are in very tough situations like this,” said Risa Bierman, assistant coordinator of Student Assistance Services. “They are usually reluctant to ask for help since they have survived as independents for years in many cases, so it is hard to judge the number of Texas A&M students who encounter such situations. But it’s more than you would expect.”
Bierman says the student is extremely grateful for the Peseks’ help, and he is unwilling to give up his education—whatever the cost.
“He—and other students in similar situations—will give up food before they give up college,” Bierman said. “They know that a college degree will change everything.”
A Helping Hand
A Texas A&M kinesiology graduate, Pesek is a physics teacher at James Bowie High School and a real estate consultant at Jackson Properties, both in Austin. His wife graduated from the University of Texas and is pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics at Texas A&M.
“My wife and I feel extremely fortunate to help in this small way,” Pesek said. “We are just average people who have always wanted to give back to Texas A&M but weren’t sure what form that might take. Texas A&M is very important to us and we think that everyone should feel they have a place to call home, especially during the holidays.”
The couple is planning to start financing a $25,000 endowed “Home for the Holidays” fund in 2013 through the Texas A&M Foundation, which will assist students without a place to stay over the holidays or who need financial assistance to get home.
They hope their gift will help many more students in similar situations and inspire others to give in keeping with the spirit of the season.
By Dunae Crenwelge ’14
Contact Foundation Director of Development Cindy Munson ’99 to learn how you can support students in need with a gift to the Texas A&M Foundation.